Tom's Britain - Exploring places of interest and things to do in England, Wales & Scotland

11 October 2017

Attend the Painswick Feast and Church Clypping

Your author's favourite seasonal traditions are generally those with obscure purpose and confusing content, and as such a trip to the Cotswold town of Painswick on Sunday 24th September offered a perfect afternoon out.

Now combined with the annual Painswick Feast - which takes place among the 99 perfectly-trimmed churchyard yew trees - the clypping itself takes its name from the old English for embracing, and is quite literally an embracing of the church. The ancient open air service sees attendees surround the church, linking hands and doing an approximation of the hokey-cokey whilst singing a special clypping hymn.

Like all the best traditions, there is music, a procession and vernacular food. The food in question is Puppy Dog Pie, a pie now made with shin of beef and prunes which legend has it took its name from historically poor Painswick-ites who served up stray dog pies to unsuspecting visitors from nearby Stroud.

All in all, a pleasantly diverting day out. As summer turns to autumn it's nice to make the most of being outside, and your author supposes that this is what inspired the earliest clyppers.

For more, see

1 September 2017

Step inside Mount Stuart

Should you ever tire of visiting the nation's country houses, the answer lies a short ferry ride from Wemyss Bay, just outside Glasgow. For so grand are the bag-piping bears and starry ceilings of Mount Stuart - on the Isle of Bute - that they feel like something quite different to all that have gone before them. When the guide boasts that this is Britain's most spectacular Victorian Gothic house, few would dispute it.

Rumoured to have been the country's first million pound house, with the world's first heated swimming pool, and Scotland's first domestic electric lights, the 3rd Marquess of Bute's architectural fantasy inevitably deals with heavy doses of the cult of aristocracy, but is also a showcase for the extreme wealth Britain's richest could muster in the Victroian era.

Where else but this most fairytale of houses would the descendants of Robert the Bruce be too busy coal mining, motor racing and coordinating world-class art exhibitions to remember they have a copy of Shakespeare's first folio slumbering in the library, a stone's throw from a chapel with more marble than the Vatican's Sistine Chapel? Of course, who can blame them with 300 acres of grounds to explore,  laid out under the watchful eye of the first Scottish Prime Minister and his father and complete with private beaches and rare antipodean plants.

For details and to arrange your visit, see